Allan Massie

Satiable Curiosity

Kipling Abroad: Traffics and Discoveries from Burma to Brazil

By

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The dense wet heat that hung over the face of land, like a blanket, prevented all hope of sleep in the first instance. The cicalas helped the heat, and the yelling jackals the cicalas. It was impossible to sit still in the dark, empty, echoing house and watch the punkah beat the dead air. So, at ten o’clock of the night, I set my walking-stick on end in the middle of the garden, and waited to see how it would fall. It pointed directly down the moonlit road that leads to the City of Dreadful Night.

So we are off, caught at once on a voyage of exploration, escaping the ‘empty, echoing house’ and the punkah that ‘beat’ – wonderfully exact word – ‘the dead air’.

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